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Journal Articles Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Year : 2020

Sons accelerate maternal aging in a wild mammal

Marco Festa-Bianchet
Fanie Pelletier
  • Function : Author

Abstract

Aging, or senescence, is a progressive deterioration of physiological function with age. It leads to age-related declines in reproduction (reproductive senescence) and survival (actuarial senescence) in most organisms. However, senescence patterns can be highly variable across species, populations, and individuals, and the reasons for such variations remain poorly understood. Evolutionary theories predict that increases in reproductive effort in early life should be associated with accelerated senescence, but empirical tests have yielded mixed results. Although in sexually size-dimorphic species offspring of the larger sex (typically males) commonly require more parental resources, these sex differences are not currently incorporated into evolutionary theories of aging. Here, we show that female reproductive senescence varies with both the number and sex ratio of offspring weaned during early life, using data from a long-term study of bighorn sheep. For a given number of offspring, females that weaned more sons than daughters when aged between 2 and 7 y experienced faster senescence in offspring survival in old age. By contrast, analyses of actuarial senescence showed no cost of early-life reproduction. Our results unite two important topics in evolutionary biology: life history and sex allocation. Offspring sex ratio may help explain among-individual variation in senescence rates in other species, including humans.

Dates and versions

hal-04298115 , version 1 (21-11-2023)

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Mathieu Douhard, Marco Festa-Bianchet, Fanie Pelletier. Sons accelerate maternal aging in a wild mammal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2020, 117 (9), pp.4850-4857. ⟨10.1073/pnas.1914654117⟩. ⟨hal-04298115⟩
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